Pharmacist wages in the spotlight


Lack of alignment between pharmacy pay rates and those requiring equivalent qualifications being considered by the Fair Work Commission

In June this year, the Fair Work Commission decided the pharmacist union PPA (also known as APESMA) had demonstrated there was an increase in work value under this pharmacist award.

This increase in work value was associated with HMRs and RMMRs, as well as the introduction of vaccinations, provision of emergency contraception, more scheduling of medicines to pharmacy-only status, and a “general increase in the level of responsibility and accountability”.

Parties were invited to make further submissions as to how these findings should be reflected in an adjustment to remuneration, noting that not all pharmacists administer vaccinations or dispense emergency contraception.

The decision also highlighted a lack of alignment in pay rates and relativities between pharmacists – who require a four-year undergraduate degree – and those for classifications requiring equivalent qualifications under the Manufacturing and Associated Industries and Occupations Award 2010, as well as a lack of a consistent relationship with the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF).

The Commission considered this might potentially constitute a work value consideration relevant to the four-yearly review of the Pharmacy Award.

PPA/APESMA submitted that the starting rate for a pharmacy intern should be aligned with the rate for the classification that requires an advanced diploma plus additional training under the Manufacturing Award, being $1132.40 per week.

Alternatively it submitted that the rate should be at least $952.60, which is equivalent to the minimum starting wage for a professional with a four-year degree under the Health Professionals and Support Services Award 2010, the Nurses Award 2010, the Professional Employees Award 2010 and the Educational Services (Teachers) Award 2010.

Under the current Pharmacy Award, pharmacy interns earn $909.90 per week in the first half of their training, and $940.90 per week during the second half of their training.

The union proposed that the existing relativities for pharmacist classifications in the Pharmacy Award be maintained by reference to the adjusted entry level rate. This would rectify the inequity identified by the Fair Work Commission and would also be justified by the identified changes in work value, it submitted.

The PSA submitted that the Full Bench of the Commission should proceed to review and address the issue of inequity that had been identified.

Meanwhile the Pharmacy Guild submitted that the it was “not necessary” for the Commission to consider the relativity between pharmacists’ rates and those in the Manufacturing Award.

The Full Bench of the Commission found that the issue of alignment in pay rates has ramifications for other awards which contain classifications applying to employees who are required to hold undergraduate qualifications.

The president of the Commission handed down a provisional view that the 29 other awards with classifications requiring undergraduate degrees should be referred to a separate Full Bench for review.

He added that the Full Bench will consider the alignment in pay rates and relativities, whether there is a lack of consistent relationship with the AQF, and whether the AQF alone is a satisfactory proxy for determining work value.

Further submissions are to be made before proceedings may continue.

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